Our week in Mumbai really couldn’t have been any better. We had tapped into a real engaged and creative bunch of people with whom we had a lot more in common than I’d hoped for. They were young and intelligent and had huge ambitions for India. Yashas was a creative in an advertising agency and the others were involved in digital art, festival production and band management, as well as being musicians in their own right. Here is a video Abijit put up of Nush…
I soon realised that their global consciousness was huge and their goals and career expectations extended much further than mine. Yash spoke of a reinterpretation of Hinduism into a modern world. Of social entrepreneurship and altruistic capitalism. His female friends were earning their own money, having relationships (or not) and taking control of their lives. Through him I saw a snapshot of India that filled me with hope. I saw a potential future that if allowed to flourish would completely transform the nation and indeed, the world.
It felt good to have friends again. When your on the road like we are, trust is a big part of everyday life and with this group of people I knew this wan’t an issue. We hung out, visited restaurants and talked shit. We went to the theatre in the trendy part of town, we went to a gig and had a good boogie. They took us to the sights around the city and showed us the where the dope food was.
The poster for the latest Bollywood film ‘Himmatwala’ was everywhere. It looked bad arse with a mean tiger and a killer moustache, but it took a bit of convincing for our ‘cultured’ friends to agree to go.
I really enjoyed the movie. Everything about Himmatwala was saturated in a melodramatic fervour for a standard list of formulaic ingredients. Love triangles, courageous sacrifices, honourable revenge, corrupt landowners and long-lost relatives and siblings separated by fate were all present in Himmatwala. Ad to this the colours in the costumes, the sounds of the songs and a string of cheesy lines and slapstick humour and you get an extremely engaged audience. It was a frenzied spectacle, people throwing stuff at the bad guy, whistling at the girls and cheering for the hero as if it were all real life.
Yashas was squirming in his seat the whole time. Poor guy. I didn’t need to be able to understand the words to know it was pandering to the lowest-common-denominator. But according to Yashas and Navdha the script was horrendous and the movie presented an alternate Hindi culture through the shallow lens of commercial cinema. They lamented the lack of responsibility the ‘art form’ had towards society, and the stereotypes it reinforced again and again. They couldn’t take anymore and we decided to leave during intermission and get a drink at Leopold’s a few blocks down the road. Like a historical gallery of human treachery, the walls were pock marked with bullet holes from a Pakistani attack which took the lives of around 166 people. The discussion got heavy as Yashas and Navdha responded to my curiosities like moths to a candle. I pretended like I wasn’t thinking about Shantaram the whole time as we unintentionally re-enacted the intellectual banter described throughout the book, set in the very same cafe we were in.